In his landmark book “Shades of Black”, William Cross describes the following stages in the development of Black identity, stages believed to be similar for most Asians, Latinos and Aboriginals living in white-dominated society. There is no particular age range attached to each stage, and no expectation that all individuals will move through all stages, though the process typically spans the period from pre-adolescence to middle adulthood. Building racial identity is an on-going process that continues over each person’s life span.
Over the years, psychologist Dr Peter Hotz has worked with scores of adoptive families. He tells me that he has seen adoption from every angle. I’m at his Vancouver office to talk about international, cross-cultural adoptions. Dr Hotz has worked with several AFABC families. I can tell immediately that he has synthesized all that experience into some fundamental messages for parents considering adopting a child cross-culturally.
Loving our children has been easy. As transracial adoptive parents, however, it has been much more difficult to develop strategies for dealing with individual and institutional racism.
In our experience, the best lessons we can offer are those that teach our children to externalize racism and assure them we will always be there for them.
I am the mom of a 13-year-old girl adopted from the US. She is African-American, we are Caucasian. Some of her friends (it’s a predominantly “white” school) are attracting the interest of boys. My daughter says nobody seems interested in her, and she thinks it’s because of her colour. How do we respond to this in a way that helps?
Surely you will want her to feel valuable, attractive, and wanted. It may be more difficult for your daughter as peer-relationships, womanhood, racial identity, and self-esteem are likely involved in this for her.
In 1983, Peggy MacIntosh, a white university professor, wrote a now famous essay on some of the hidden privileges that, as a white person, she enjoys. Here’s just a sample:
Do adoptive parents' conceptions of race and racial identity change after adoption?
Raising a child of a different race than yours probably means that you’ve discussed comeback lines for all those unwanted grocery store comments with other adoptive parents.
If you’re like us, you’ve probably felt at a loss for words at times and worried how some of these misconceptions and misguided views might affect your children who are often standing next to you.
In 2002, I had the opportunity to spend an incredible week with a wonderful friend, also an adoptive mother,visiting the country of our daughter’s birth.
by Joanne Thalken
The Oregonian newspaper recently ran a story entitled “Sending Black Babies North.” Gabrielle Glaser, a journalist who visited BC recently, and who has shown great interest in Canadian adoptions of African-American children, is the author.
Once we decided that we’d create our family through adoption, we were overwhelmed with the many avenues we could pursue. It was after seeing a Christmas picture of the ACAN group, that we finally decided to adopt internationally, with the Open Door Agency in Georgia. The journey that led us to become a multiracial family had begun.
Once the process was underway, we read books to familiarize ourselves with the issues of white parents raising children of African heritage.
Transracial adoption means that your family becomes “public” because your differences are readily apparent to others. Do you feel sick at the thought of the lady in the grocery store who asks inappropriate questions about your child, or do you relish the thought of learning how to help your child develop the strength and capacity to cope with racial bias? As a parent, you will be “on display.” You will need to seek help from adult mentors of colour who understand firsthand your children’s experiences in ways that you can’t.